Thursday, December 29, 2011

So bad it's just Delicious, YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE is a must-see for fans of Big Screen Pulp Friction.

With hubby Jim away on one his many, many business trips, I felt the need for one of those rare romantic films of yesteryear. One of those potboilers from the 50s or the 60s that get the blood racing and the tearducts flowing. So off I went to the Warner Archives to see what new and fabulous releases might fill the void. And there it was (or so I thought) --- Delmar Daves 1964 production of something called YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE. With a tagline that read "A Woman Could Feel Him Across A Room", how could I possibly go wrong?

Don't even think of writing a bestselling novel --- that's the advice of Youngblood Hawke, which hilariously details the heartbreak of success in the New York literary game. This is a story that can only be told by a writer who's been there, someone like, say, Grace Metalious with her classic Return to Peyton Place, or in this case, Herman Wouk telling all after the success of his novel Marjorie Morningstar. As written and directed by Daves, Youngblood Hawke seems the work of someone who has never even read a book.

Blond, tanned James Franciscus plays the title character (apparently Troy Donahue, Daves regular tanned blond, was otherwise engaged), a dirt-poor but literate coal-mining truck driver from Kentucky who becomes the toast of the Big Apple in one day.

Literay patroness Eva Gabor (!) introduces Youngblood to the cream of the art crowd thus: "I read your book, and I was taller and cleaner, I was younger, I was sadder, I was happier. How did you do this miracle, dahling?" Before he can answer that, he's introduced to married interior decorator Genevieve Page who asks, "What shall I call you, Youngie or Bloody?" but before he can answer that, she takes him home to make love. "When I'm with you, " Page says afterwards, "everything seems new again, it's sharp, and good, and food tastes better, and colors seem more intense, and oh, I love you, Bloody."

She installs him in a posh penthouse where they are caught in the act by her young son. ("Tomorrow morning," says mama Page, "you report to military school.") Youngblood runs away from this affair by making a play for his book editor, Suzanne Pleshette, but gives in when Page wants him back ("Kiss me, as only my wild Hawke knows how!"). Then the couple's caught in the act again, this time by Youngblood's widowed mother. "Now she knows what I am," moans Page. Youngblood suggests they break up. "When that volcanic urge of yours comes back --- and it will! --- you'll come to me," Page rages. "I hate you!"

As so often happens in real life, Youngblood's next novel is published on the same day that his first Broadway play opens. "One book does not an author make," says a critic to Youngblood's party guests. "His new book was to be the proof of the pudding. Proof it is not, pudding it is. I had a premonition that our Kentucky stag would be brought to his knees by the hounds of the metropolis." (Gee, if people in New York really talked this way, wouldn't you move there in a second? Maybe not: when Page's seen-too-much son, off at his military academy, commits suicide by jumping off --- no! yes! --- a stack of novels, Youngblood heads home for them thar hills of Kentucky.)

Which reminds me. I simply must check in on my youngest son little Jimmy and see how he is doing at the General Schwarzkopf Military Academy and Kinder Care. Wasn't he supposed to be home for Christmas?

Friday, October 21, 2011

MARGIN CALL: a delicious new film drama that explores the events leading up to the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.

There have been reports of hurt feelings among the bankers and brokers who have been the focus of public ire and Occupy Wall Street protests. And it is true that those poor, hard-working souls have been demonized and caricatured. Surely the much-reviled 1 percent does not consist of plutocrats in top hats or predators in blue suits, but of human beings just like the other 99 percent of us, albeit with more money and perhaps more to answer for. That, in a way, is the message of J. C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” which does a great deal to humanize the authors — and beneficiaries — of the 2008 financial crisis. But the film, relentless in its honesty and shrewd in its insights and techniques, is unlikely to soothe the wounded pride of the actual or aspiring ruling class. It is a tale of greed, vanity, myopia and expediency that is all the more damning for its refusal to moralize. — A. O. Scott


Bryan Forbes directs THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT: a poetic and comic fable set in the twilight zone of the not-quite-true. At the Cafe Chez Francis, a group of sinister promoters (Yul Brynner, Charles Boyer, Paul Henreid, John Gavin, and Oscar Homolka), plot to tear up Paris in order to unearth the oil which a slimey prospector (Donald Pleasence) believes he has located in the neighborhood. These grandiose plans come to the attention of The Madwoman of Chaillot (Katharine Hepburn) who is ostensibly not normal in her mind but who is soon shown to be the very essence of practical worldly goodness and common sense. She sees through the crookedness of the prospector and insists that the world is being turned into an unhappy place by the thieves and those who are greedy for worldly goods and power. At a tea party attended by other "mad" women of Paris (Edith Evans, Margaret Leighton, Guilieta Masina), she has brought together representatives of the despoilers of the earth and wreckers of its happiness (including a marvelous turn by Danny Kaye as the Ragpicker), and has them tried and condemned to extermination. In a scene which mounts into the realms of high poetic comedy, she sends the culprits one by one, lured by the scent of oil and undreamed-of riches, into a bottomless pit which opens out of her cellar. The exodus of the wicked is accompanied by another and more beautiful miracle: Joy, justice and love return to the world again. Also starring Nanette Newman and Richard Chamberlain as the young lovers caught in the proceedings. Not to be missed! 


Monday, October 17, 2011

Get Money Out (click here to go to the official site)

It's Time to GET MONEY OUT of politics

Bailouts. War. Unemployment. Our government is bought, and we’re angry. Now, we’re turning our anger into positive action. By signing this petition, you are joining our campaign to get money out of politics. Our politicians won’t do this. But we will. We will become an unrelenting, massive organized wave advocating a Constitutional amendment to get money out of politics.

Using their ability to influence media outlets as a platform to force this issue to the center of the 2012 elections. The Dylan Ratigan Show is building a digital wave, so join them. As the petition grows, the wave grows. Email, Facebook, Tweet — GET MONEY OUT.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


...Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart...

...Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary...

~ Steve Jobs
(2005 Stanford Commencement Speech)

DELICIOUS NEWS: A stirring statement from the wonderful crowds of 'Occupy Wall Street'

“Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”

Unions lent their muscle to the long-running protest against Wall Street and economic inequality Wednesday, with their members joining thousands of protesters in a lower Manhattan march as smaller demonstrations flourished across the country.

Protesters in suits and T-shirts with union slogans left work early to march with activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park for days. Some marchers brought along their children, hoisting them onto their shoulders as they walked down Broadway.

"We're here to stop corporate greed," said Mike Pellegrino, an NYC Transit bus mechanic from Rye Brook. "They should pay their fair share of taxes. We're just working and looking for decent lives for our families."

Of the camping protesters, he said, "We feel kinship with them. We're both looking for the same things."

Here is the official statement from this patriotic movement:

"As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Today, kiddies, we visit FRESNO the delicious CBS miniseries: Crammed with Passion...Stuffed with Lust.


A band of Spanish explorers comes upon a California valley where grapes are plentiful. "The grape is good. It will sustain us," proclaims the No. 1 conquistador, ordering the group to put down roots right there. But wait: here come two more men with a load of grapes from the next valley over. The commandant takes a taste, then spits them out with a grimace. "You call these grapes?" he cries. "They taste like Fresno!"

A few city fathers may not appreciate the etymology lesson that opens the 1986 CBS miniseries, Fresno. But Creator Barry Kemp (of TV’s Taxi and Newhart fame) could not help noticing that Fresno, the world's raisin capital, wound up last in a 1984 ranking of American cities according to quality of life. To be sure, the quality of life for the raisin-growing Kensington family has been drying up for years. The family patriarch was crushed to death 20 years ago in a dehydrator accident. Now his widow Charlotte (Carol Burnett) spends her time sipping Bloody Marys and being chauffeured around in a Chevrolet station wagon while the Rolls is being repaired.

Charlotte's eldest son Cane (Charles Grodin) tries to save the family’s business from the clutches of a rival tycoon (Dabney Coleman) by striking a shady deal with the local toxic-waste company. Meanwhile, his randy wife Talon (Teri Garr) roams the farm looking for bed mates; his younger brother Kevin (Anthony Heald) takes a vow of celibacy to protest the killing of sperm whales; an adopted sibling named Tiffany (Valerie Mahaffey) embarks on a search for her real parents; and a mysterious stranger (Gregory Harrison) shows up with his own dark secrets -- not the least of which is why he never wears a shirt.

Satiric jabs at specific soaps? Well, the California wines of Falcon Crest have puckered into raisins. The Southern accents (in California?) have migrated from Dallas. Garr's drop-dead wardrobe and a female catfight are straight out of Dynasty. And when Tiffany searches for her father at a costume party, she assembles all the men who are dressed as clowns and demands, a la Lace, "Which one of you bozos is my father?"

Fresno was an ambitious television experiment -- a comedy miniseries parody of prime time soaps. But in the 80s - a nighttime soap-opera era of evil look-alikes, characters miraculously resurrected from the dead, and whole seasons that turn out to be dreams - it’s hard to tell the parody from the real goods. In fact, Fresno seems almost oddly overqualified: it’s better plotted, acted and directed than most of the shows it satirizes.

Fresno had only two network TV airings in the United States, (the repeat screening was a shortened version - with an added laugh track!) The series was subsequently never repeated on regular networks and has oddly never been released commercially in any video format. Write your congressman.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DELICIOUS REMEMBERS: Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor, Lifelong Screen Star, Dies at 79

Elizabeth Taylor, the actress who dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty and whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 79.

The cause was congestive heart failure, her publicist, Sally Morrison, told The Associated Press.

In a world of flickering images, Ms. Taylor was a constant star. First appearing onscreen at age 9, she grew up there, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from National Velvet to A Place in the Sun and from there to Cleopatra as she was indelibly transformed from vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen.

In a career of more than 70 years and more than 50 films, she won two Academy Awards as best actress, for her performances as a call girl in Butterfield 8 (in 1960) and as the acid-tongued Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (In 1966). Mike Nichols, who directed her in “Virginia Woolf,” said he considered her “one of the greatest cinema actresses.”

When Ms. Taylor was honored in 1986 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, “More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon — what movies are as an art and an industry and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark.”

Ms. Taylor’s popularity endured throughout her life, but critics were sometimes reserved in their praise of her acting. In that sense she may have been upstaged by her own striking beauty. Could anyone as lovely as Elizabeth Taylor also be talented? The answer, of course, was yes.

Given her lack of professional training, the range of her acting was surprisingly wide. She played predatory vixens and wounded victims. She was Cleopatra of the burnished barge; Tennessee William’s Maggie the cat; Catherine Holly, who confronted terror suddenly last summer, and Shakespeare’s Kate. Her melodramatic heroines would have been at home on soap operas.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed her in Suddenly Last Summer and “Cleopatra,” remembered seeing her for the first time, in Cannes, when she was 18. “She was the most incredible vision of loveliness I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “And she was sheer innocence.”

Mr. Mankiewicz admired her professionalism. “Whatever the script called for, she played it,” he said. “The thread that goes through the whole is that of a woman who is an honest performer. Therein lies her identity.”

It was also Mr. Mankiewicz who said that for Ms. Taylor, “living life was a kind of acting,” that she lived her life “in screen time.”

Marilyn Monroe was the sex goddess, Grace Kelly the ice queen, Audrey Hepburn the eternal gamine. Ms. Taylor was beauty incarnate. As the director George Stevens said when he chose her for “A Place in the Sun,” the role called for the “beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy, some time or other, thinks he can marry.”

There was more than a touch of Ms. Taylor herself in the roles she played. She acted with the magnet of her personality. Although she could alter her look for a part — putting on weight for Martha in “Virginia Woolf” or wearing elaborate period costumes — she was not a chameleon, assuming the coloration of a character. Instead she would bring the character closer to herself. For her, acting was “purely intuitive.” As she said, “What I try to do is to give the maximum emotional effect with the minimum of visual movement.”

Sometimes her film roles seemed to be a mirror image of her own life. More than most movie stars, she seemed to exist in the public domain, where her indiscretions were bared under a spotlight. She was pursued by paparazzi and denounced by the Vatican. But behind the seemingly scandalous behavior was a woman with a clear sense of morality: she habitually married her lovers. People watched and counted, with vicarious pleasure, as she became Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky — enough marriages to certify her career as a serial wife. Asked why she married so often, she said, in an assumed drawl: “I don’t know, honey. It sure beats the hell out of me.”

During a lifetime of emotional and physical setbacks, life-threatening illnesses and accidents, and several near-death experiences, Ms. Taylor was a survivor. “I’ve been lucky all my life,” she said in 1992, just before turning 60. “Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.” At 65, she said on the ABC News program “20-20”: “I’m like a living example of what people can go through and survive. I’m not like anyone. I’m me.”

Her life was played out in print: miles of newspaper and magazine articles, a galaxy of photographs and a shelf of biographies, each one painting a different portrait. “Planes, trains, everything stops for Elizabeth Taylor, but the public has no conception of who she is,” said Roddy McDowall who was her earliest co-star and a friend for life. “People who damn her wish to hell they could do what they think she does.”

There was one point of general agreement: her beauty. As cameramen noted, her face was flawlessly symmetrical; she had no bad angle, and her eyes were of the deepest violet.

One prominent and perhaps surprising dissenter about her looks was Richard Burton, who was twice her husband. The notion of his wife as “the most beautiful woman in the world is absolute nonsense,” he said.

“She has wonderful eyes,” he added, “but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she’s rather short in the leg.”

On screen and off, Ms. Taylor was a provocative combination of the angel and the seductress. In all her incarnations she had a vibrant sensuality. But beneath it was more than a tinge of vulgarity, as in her love of ostentatious jewelry. “I know I’m vulgar,” she said, addressing her fans with typical candor, “but would you have me any other way?”

For many years she was high on the list of box-office stars. Even when her movies were unsuccessful, or, late in her career, when she acted infrequently, she retained her fame: there was only one Liz (a nickname she hated), and her celebrity increased the more she lived her life in public. There was nothing she could do about it. “The public me,” she said, “the one named Elizabeth Taylor, has become a lot of hokum and fabrication — a bunch of drivel — and I find her slightly revolting.”

Late in her life, she became known as a social activist. After the death of her friend Rock Hudson, she was a founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research and devoted a great deal of her time to raising money for it. In 1997, she said, “I use my fame now when I want to help a cause or other people.”

Twice she had leading roles on Broadway, in a 1981 revival of Lillian Hellman’s “Little Foxes” and two years later in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” with Burton, at that point her former husband. In the first instance she won some critical respect; in the second she and Burton descended into self-parody. In any case, theater was not her most appropriate arena; it was as a movie star on a wide screen that she made her impact.

In a life of many surprises, one of the oddest facts is that as an infant she was considered to be an ugly duckling. Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London on Feb. 27, 1932, the second child of American parents with roots in Kansas. Her father, Francis Lenn Taylor, was an art dealer who had been transferred to London from New York; her mother, the former Sara Viola Warmbrodt, had acted in the theater in New York, under the name Sara Sothern, before she was married. (Her brother, Howard, was born in 1929). At birth, her mother said, her daughter’s “tiny face was so tightly closed it looked as if it would never unfold.” Elizabeth spent her early childhood in England. It was there, at 3, that she learned to ride horseback, a skill that was to help her win her first major role. Just before the beginning of World War II, her parents returned to the United States, moving to Pasadena, Calif., and later Beverly Hills, with their son and daughter.

Ms. Taylor shared with her daughter an infatuation with the movies, and encouraged her to act. Elizabeth made her movie debut in 1942 as Gloria Twine in a forgettable film called There’s one Born Every Minute, with Carl Switzer, who was best known as Alfalfa, the boy with the cowlick in the “Our Gang” series. The casting director at Universal offered this capsule criticism: “The kid has nothing.”

Despite that inauspicious debut, Sam Marx, an MGM producer who had known the Taylors in England, arranged for their daughter to have a screen test for Lassie Come Home, She passed the audition. During the filming, in which she acted opposite Roddy McDowall, a cameraman mistakenly thought her long eyelashes were fake and asked her to take them off.

The power of her attraction was evident as early as 1944, in “National Velvet.” MGM had for many years owned the film rights to the Enid Bagnold novel on which the film was based but had had difficulty finding a child actress who could speak with an English accent and ride horses. At 12, Elizabeth Taylor met those requirements, though she was initially rejected for being too short. Stories circulated that she stretched herself in order to fill the physical dimensions of the role: Velvet Brown, a girl who was obsessed with horses and rode the Pi to victory in the Grand National Steeplechase. “I knew if it were right for me to be Velvet,” she said, “God would make me grow.”

In one scene, her horse seemed to be dying and Ms. Taylor was supposed to cry — the first time she was called on to show such emotion on screen. Her co-star was Mickey Rooney, a more experienced actor, and he gave her some advice on how to summon up tears: pretend that her father was dying, that her mother had to wash clothes for a living and that her little dog had been run over. Hearing that sad scenario, Ms. Taylor burst out laughing at the absurdity. When it came time to shoot the scene, she later said: “All I thought about was the horse being very sick and that I was the little girl who owned him. And the tears came.”

Ms. Taylor gave a performance that, quite literally, made grown men and women weep, to say nothing of little girls who identified with Velvet. In his review of the film in The Nation, James Agee, otherwise a tough-minded critic, confessed that the first time he had seen Ms. Taylor on screen he had been “choked with the peculiar sort of adoration I might have felt if we were both in the same grade of primary school.”

She was, he said, “rapturously beautiful.”

“I think that she and the picture are wonderful,” he added, “and I hardly know or care whether she can act or not.”
The movie made her a star. Decades later, she said “National Velvet” was still “the most exciting film” she had ever made. But there was a drawback. To do the movie, she had to sign a long-term contract with MGM. As she said, she “became their chattel until I did ‘Cleopatra.’ ”

At first she played typical teenagers (in A Date With Judy, Life With Father and Little Women). At 16 she was “an emotional child inside a woman’s body,” she later said. But in contrast to other child actresses, she made an easy transition to adult roles. In 1950, she played Robert Taylor’s wife in Conspirator. The same year, she was in Vincente Minnelli’s Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy. And, life imitating art, she became a bride herself in 1950, marrying the hotel heir Conrad N. Hilton Jr. After an unhappy nine months, she divorced him and then married the British actor Michael Wilding, who was 20 years older than she.

By her own estimation, she “whistled and hummed” her way through her early films. But that changed in 1951, when she made “A Place in the Sun,” playing her prototypical role as a seemingly unattainable romantic vision. The film, she said, was “the first time I ever considered acting when I was young.”

In the film, she is a wealthy young woman of social position who is the catalyst for Montgomery Clift’s American tragedy. To the astonishment of skeptics, she held her own with Clift and Shelley Winters.

“A Place in the Sun” was followed by Ivanhoe, Beau Brummel and The Last Time I Saw Paris. Then she made two wides-screen epics back to back, Giant (with Rock Hudson and James Dean, who died after finishing his scenes) and Raintree County with Clift, who became one of her closest friends). Her role in the Civil War-era drama “Raintree” as Susanna Drake, a Southern belle who marries an Indiana abolitionist, earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress in 1957. Ms. Taylor was filming Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman in 1958 when her third husband, they flamboyant impresario Mike Todd, was killed along with three others in New Mexico in the crash of a small plane called the Lucky Liz. They had been married little more than a year and had a newly born daughter, Liza.

A bereaved Ms. Taylor was consoled by her husband’s best friend, the singer Eddie Fisher, who in a storybook romance was married to the actress Debbie Reynolds, one of America’s sweethearts. Soon a shocked nation learned that Debbie and Eddie were over and that Mr. Fisher was marrying Ms. Taylor, continuing what turned out to be a chain of marital events. (In 1993, at an AIDS benefit, Ms. Reynolds appeared on stage 20 minutes before Ms. Taylor and said, to waves of laughter, “Well, here I am, sharing something else with Elizabeth.”) Mr. Fisher died in 2010.

After Ms. Taylor finished “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” MGM demanded that she fulfill her contract and act in a film version of John O’Hara’s “Butterfield 8” (1960). Her performance as the call girl Gloria Wandrous brought her an Oscar as best actress.

The award was bestowed less than six weeks after she was forced to undergo an emergency tracheotomy in a London hospital after being overcome by pneumonia and losing consciousness, one of several times tabloid headlines proclaimed her close to death. She and others felt that the Oscar was given to her more out of sympathy for her illness than in appreciation of her acting.

Next was “Cleopatra,” in which she was the first actress to be paid a million-dollar salary. Working overtime, she eventually made more than twice that figure. The movie was made in Rome and cost so much ($40 million, a record for its time) and took so long that it almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox and caused an irrevocable rift between the producer Darryl F. Zanuck and the director Mr. Mankiewicz.

When “Cleopatra” was finally released in 1963, it was a disappointment. But the film became legendary for the off-screen affair of its stars, Ms. Taylor, then married to Mr. Fisher, and Richard Burton, then married to Sybil Burton.

Taylor and Burton: it seemed like a meeting, or a collision, of opposites, the most famous film star in the world and the man many believed to be the finest classical actor of his generation. What they had in common was an extraordinary passion for each other and for living life to the fullest. Their romantic roller coaster was closely chronicled by the international press, which began referring to the couple as an entity called “Dickenliz.”

After finishing the film, Ms. Taylor went with Burton to Toronto, where he was on a pre-Broadway tour with “Hamlet.” In Toronto, and later in New York, the two were at the height of their megastardom, accompanied by a retinue as large as that of the Sultan of Brunei and besieged by fans, who turned every public appearance into a mob scene. In New York, as many as 5,000 people gathered outside the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on West 46th Street after every performance of “Hamlet,” hoping Ms. Taylor was backstage and eager to see the couple emerge.

They were married in 1964, and Ms. Taylor tried without success to keep herself in the background. “I don’t think of myself as Taylor,” she said, ingenuously. “I much prefer being Burton.” She told her husband, “If I get fat enough, they won’t ask me to do any more films.” Although she put on weight, she continued to act.

The life of Dickenliz was marked by excess. They maintained mansions in various countries, rented entire floors of hotels and spent lavishly on cars, art and jewelry, including the 69.42-carat Cartier diamond and the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond. (In 2002, Ms. Taylor published “My Love Affair With Jewelry,” a coffee-table memoir as told through the prism of her world-class gems.)

Since childhood, Ms. Taylor had been surrounded by domestic animals. When she was not allowed to take her dogs with her to London because of a quarantine rule, she leased a yacht for them at a reported cost of $20,000 and moored it on the Thames.

After “Cleopatra,” the couple united in a film partnership that gave the public glossy romances like The V.I.P.’s and The Sandpiper and one powerful drama about marital destructiveness, the film version of Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” As Martha, the faculty wife, a character 20 years older than she was, Ms. Taylor gained 20 pounds and made herself look dowdy. After she received her second Academy Award for the performance, Burton, who played Martha’s husband, George, offered a wry response: “She won an Oscar for it,” he said, bitterly, “and I didn’t,” he said, equally bitterly.

The Burtons also acted together in Doctor Faustas (1968), in which she was a conjured up Helen of Troy, The Comedians (1967), with Taylor as an adulterous ambassador’s wife in Haiti; Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of The Taming of the Shrew (1967), with Ms. Taylor as the volatile Katharina to Burton’s wife-hunting Petrucchio; Boom! (1968), an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” with Ms. Taylor as a rich, ailing woman living on an island; and Hammersmith Is Out (1972), a retelling of the Faust legend in which she played a diner waitress.

On her own, Ms. Taylor was an adulterous Army major’s wife in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), with Marlon Brando; a fading prostitute in Secret Ceremony (1968); an aging Las Vegas chorus girl in The Only Game in Town (1970), with Warren Beatty; a rich widow who witnesses a murder in Night Watch (1973); a wife who tries to save her marriage through plastic surgery in Ash Wednesday (1973); and a beautiful, worldly actress in the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music (1977), among other films.

After 10 high-living and often torrid years, the Burtons were divorced in 1974, remarried 16 months later (in a mud-hut village in Botswana), separated again the following February and granted a divorce in Haiti in July 1976.

Burton died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 58 in 1984 in Switzerland. Thirteen years later, Ms. Taylor said that Todd and Burton were the loves of her life, and that if Burton had lived they might have married a third time. For years after his death, she told The Times in 2000, she couldn’t watch when the films they had made were shown on television.

After her second divorce from Burton, she wed John W. Warner, a Virginian politician, and was active in his winning campaign for the United States Senate. As she had done with Burton, she tried to subordinate her career to that of her husband. For five years she acted as a Washington political wife and became, she said, “the loneliest person in the world.” Overcome by depression, she checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She later admitted that she had been treated as “a drunk and a junkie.”

In addition to alcohol and drugs, she had a problem with overeating, and it became the butt of frequent jokes by the comedian Joan Rivers (“She has more chins than a Chinese phone book”). Ms. Rivers later apologized to Ms. Taylor through a friend, though Ms. Taylor shrugged off the insults, saying they did not “get me where I live.” Ms. Rivers said, “From then on, I was crazy about her.” Always one to admit to her mistakes and misfortunes, Ms. Taylor wrote a book about her weight problems, “Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image, and Self-Esteem” (1988).

When she returned to the Ford clinic for further treatment, she met Larry Fortensky, a construction worker, who was also a patient. In a wedding spectacular in 1991, she and Mr. Fortensky were married at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., with celebrated guests sharing the grounds with Mr. Jackson’s giraffes, zebras and llamas. Although the press was not invited to the ceremony, a photographer parachuted in and narrowly missing landing on Gregory Peck. Four years later, the Fortenskys were divorced. Ms. Taylor, a longtime friend of Mr. Jackson’s, was a visible presence at his funeral in 2009.

Through the 1980s and ’90s, Ms. Taylor acted in movies sporadically, did “The Little Foxes” and “Private Lives” on Broadway, and appeared on television as Louella Parson in Malice in Wonderland in 1985 and as the aging actress Alexandra Del Lago in Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth in 1989.

In 1994 she played Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in The Flintstones, and in 1996 she made consecutive tag-team appearances on four CBS situation comedies. In 2001, she and Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Debbie Reynolds made fun of their own images in These Old Broads, a tepidly received television movie – written by Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Ms Reynolds and Eddie Fisher – about aging movie stars (with Ms. Taylor, getting little screen time, as their caftan-wearing agent), who despise one another but reunite for a television special.

Ms. Taylor was often seen as a caricature of herself, “full of no-nonsense shamelessness,” as Margo Jefferson wrote in The New York Times in 1998, adding, “Whether it’s about how she ages or what she wears, she has, bless her heart, made the principles of good and bad taste equally meaningless.”

Increasingly, Ms. Taylor divided her time between her charitable works (including various Israeli causes) and commercial enterprises, like a line of perfumes marketed under her name. She helped raise more than $100 million to fight AIDS.

In February 1997, she celebrated her 65th birthday at a party that was a benefit for AIDS research. At the party, which was later shown on television, Madonna ended the festivities by announcing that Ms. Taylor had always been her idol. After the party, Ms. Taylor entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for an operation on a brain tumor. There were other medical setbacks. In October 2009 she had experimental surgery for a leaky heart valve.

In 2002, she was among five people, including Paul McCartney to receive Kennedy Center Honors in the performing arts.

She is survived by her brother Howard; four children, Michael Wilding Jr., who owns a cafe in Albuquerque; Christopher Wilding, a film editor in Los Angeles; Liza Todd Tivey, a sculptor; and Maria Burton Carson, whom she and Burton adopted in 1961; and by nine grandchildren.

Married or single, sick or healthy, on screen or off, Ms. Taylor never lost her appetite for experience. Late in life, when she had one of many offers to write her memoirs, she refused, saying with characteristic panache, “Hell no, I’m still living my memoirs.”

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